February 26-28, 2017 • Atlanta, GA


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Janel Frost

The Michigan Hands & Voices Board of Trustees nominates Janel Frost for the 2017 EHDI Family Leadership A ward, for her tireless efforts within the Michigan EHDI system to: 1) create a state chapter of Hands & Voices, and 2) for her advocacy to improve educational planning for Michigan children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Janel's son, Mason, was born prematurely in 2001 and spent his first four months in the hospital. He had nine surgeries as an infant, and was identified as hard of hearing. As Mason grew, Janel became involved in parent support activities in Michigan. But in 2012, there was only the Guide By Your Sideâ„¢ program within EHDI, running without a state chapter of its parent organization, Hands & Voicesâ„¢. There were no parent leaders interested in establishing a state chapter. Recognizing the need, Janel stepped up. As a Parent Guide in the Guide By Your Side program, Janel had seen firsthand that not all families received the opportunities that had been provided to her. This fueled her drive to start and grow the Michigan chapter of Hands & Voices. Janel began to inspire others to get involved. She worked closely with the EHDI program to find small pockets of money to host events. She recruited parents and individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. A board started to form. Janel became the Director. Under her leadership, bylaws were written, corporate papers were filed, 501c(3) status was achieved, budgets were prepared, and grant funding was obtained.

Because of her tireless efforts, Michigan Hands & Voices now has 130 paying members, and 700 Facebook members. The number of events and trainings has risen from one to 10-15 per year. The chapter now directly assists approximately 150 families per year. Not content to just direct the chapter, Janel pushed to add another program. Moved by watching families struggle to find support when working with schools, Janel led a group to obtain funding, and started the Michigan Hands & Voices ASTraâ„¢ Advocacy Support & TRAining program. As ASTra Coordinator, Janel oversees eight lay-advocates. ASTra is on track to help about 25 families in the program's first year. Janel is also working closely with the Department of Education to improve the educational process statewide.

Janel Frost worked without pay the first three years of developing the chapter, and she donated materials - or acquired donations - to get things done. She worked mostly before breakfast and at nap times because she was also simultaneously managing her in-home childcare business.

Now Janel has taken a pay cut to be available to Michigan Hands & Voices almost full time. Janel's magic not only lies within the hard work and long hours she puts in, but more so in her talent to engage and energize a group of volunteers toward a shared goal. Janel has created a strong foundation that future parent leaders will be able to build upon. Ultimately, Michigan families benefit the most from Janel's commitment, now and in the future.